My shop, Process Improvement, Window Seat Bookcase
Comments 9

Window Seat Bookcase: Getting Underway

With each project I create, I like to add either an upgrade to my workshop or a new tool to my collection. The workshop upgrade associated with the window seat bookcase has already been implemented; before any lumber was cut.

I have been needing additional lighting in my workshop for a long, long time. I finally made up my mind to add some new light fixtures and reposition an existing one.

The round fixtures are directly above my workbench. I repositioned the fluorescent light.

The round fixtures are directly above my workbench. I repositioned the fluorescent light.

Much of last week was devoted to this project. The wiring was very basic – I ran a line from an existing light fixture and from then on it was as simple as connecting white lead to white lead; black to black and connect the ground. Pretty simple, or so I thought. As soon as I turned on the circuit breaker, it tripped. After checking my connections, I got the same result. A local company was running ads on TV talking about how frequently electrical fires happen. I took this as a sign and called in an electrician to find my mistake (a significant and unexpected cost I did not need).

But the additional light is fantastic – I should have done this a long time ago, and at a time when money wasn’t so tight.

Better light for my workbench, and note the cherry boards.

Better light for my workbench, and note the cherry boards.

I Buy a Big Honkin’ Piece of Cherry
To make the legs of the bookcase, I needed a nice, thick piece of lumber. It is a stroke of good luck that I have a Woodcraft store within a 10 minute drive from my home. More luck: they carry 8/4 cherry – a full two inches thick; plenty big for the legs. I purchased a board about six inches wide and close to eight feet long. At the check-out counter, one of the Woodcraft guys commented on the beefy nature of the board saying, “You are going to do some serious work with that!”

Once home, some serious work began. After cross-cutting my prized piece of cherry into three pieces (seen on my workbench in the second photo above), I turned to my powered jointer to get a straight edge and face on each board. I used my thickness planer to bring them down to right thickness. At the table saw, I began ripping each board into three sticks which would give me nine legs and the ability to reject the worst leg. I got some terrible burning while ripping these boards.

Don’t Use Dull Tools
This is such a simple concept, but dull blades become that way ever so slowly. I once remember ripping some oak on my table saw and having to force the oak through the blade. I bought a new blade and the difference made a big impression on me. Initially, it did not dawn on me that I was using a dull blade. Since this condition can sneak up on a woodworker, sharpening should just be a routine thing. But I am very impatient and taking the time to sharpen my blades is a task I am going to have to force myself to do.

One leg very burned, about to get cleaned up.

One leg very burned, about to get cleaned up.

Nice shavings from an equally nice jointer plane.

Nice shavings from an equally nice jointer plane.

The burning I got at my table saw I attribute to a blade with too much pitch which can be rectified with a simple cleaning. And I posted recently about using my jointer plane and it not working well. After a few strokes of the plane iron on my oil stones, surprise, surprise – I started getting good results. My powered jointer also has blades which need sharpening. I suspect even my thickness planer blades could stand a touching up. All in all, a lot of sharpening is needed, some of which I’ll do before I move further in this project.

Nine legs about 80% completed.

Nine legs about 80% completed.

As with most projects in their early stages, the photo above does not look like much, but I now have better lighting in my shop and I had ginormous fun using my jointer plane. And the cherry I bought is looking pretty good at this point.

To power tool woodworkers everywhere: embrace hand tools. I am not that good with hand planes, but when you finally find that set-up sweet spot, getting good shavings is just a blast (and I worked up a nice sweat with all that hand plane work).

We have a major family wedding to attend this weekend, so it may be a little while before my next update. I hope to have the legs finished and some work completed on the side panels. The bookcase will start to take shape at that point.


  1. I’m just guessing, but it sounds like your wiring problem may have been a case where the white wire was being used as a “switch leg”. Therefore, when you tied your neutral into it you had a short. Switch legs are illegal to use now but they were very common for a long time (I’ve done many myself). Now, you have to carry a neutral wire into each switch box. Anyway, I could be completely wrong, this is just a blind guess.

    Speaking of Woodcraft, I have one which is about a 20 minute drive from my house but I don’t go there much, but I think I’m going to start. They have a pretty decent selection of hardwood and the prices aren’t too bad. I have 4 lumberyards within a fairly short drive of my house, but 2 don’t sell to the general public. The others do but they are more geared towards general contractors and not woodworkers. Both do offer hardwoods, but if you want Walnut or Cherry you will pay through the nose for it.
    Of course, we have Hearne Hardwoods, which is about an hours drive, and their selection is as good as anywhere in the country. Again, I’ve found that they are really looking to deal with pros and not amateur woodworkers. Not that they are rude or anything, but if you are looking to inspect some nice, wide boards that need to be moved you can pretty much expect to wait a while for that to happen. They do have a very nice section of self-serve boards (imagine the selection at Woodcraft but times 20!), but generally anything wider than a foot you will need to find an employee. Let’s face it, when you are at a hardwood dealer you want to walk away with a wide board or two!

    Sorry about writing a book! I’m really looking forward to seeing your cherry bookcase take shape. It’s one of my favorite woods but I almost never get to use it.

    • Bill – the wiring problem was with the new fixtures where I tried to ground them and did not do it correctly. It took a while for the guy to discover the problem.

      I have not compared Woodcraft’s prices with the other source I would use. The other place is about a 30 minute drive away – not bad, but I am going to have to pace myself with this project. I would like to buy all the needed lumber at one time, but currently, it will be better to buy in smaller batches. Woodcraft should be good for that.

      I hate to admit this, but I have never made anything out of cherry before. Matt Kenney of Fine Woodworking once said it is his favorite wood. Since I heard this, I have been wanting to use it. So far so good. 🙂

      • Vincent Granacher says

        If you like working with cherry and you have not had a chance to work with walnut, then, when you do, you are in for a real treat. Just wear a dust mask as walnut dust can irritate, but the smell of walnut is oh so nice.

      • It’s a bit strange that a grounding issue caused your breaker to trip. Generally that is only a problem either when you are sharing a neutral wire with another circuit or if you are dealing with a GFCI. Then again, it’s been a while since I’ve worked in the field so my knowledge may be way off base. Either way you are good to go now.

  2. @ Vincent: I hope to work with walnut later in the year. I have worked with maple, tiger maple, African mahogany, white oak, red oak, pine and now cherry. Walnut is next on my list. 🙂

  3. @ Bill – the electrican said something about the plate which the ground was connected with making contact with either the white or black wire. I don’t understand all that stuff, but it works. 🙂

  4. Jane Branch Bell says

    Major is right! 😉 Love the new lighting. I bet you are really appreciating that. See you soon.

    • Jane, the new lighting is great. I can’t wait to add more lights over my table saw and miter saw. Yes, see you soon!

  5. Pingback: Window Seat Bookcase: Building the Sides and Dividers, Part 1 | Jeff Branch Woodworking

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